One reason we love horror movies so much is the incredible range of subgenres. There is literally something for everyone at every scare level imaginable. And one subgenre we are obsessed with is creature features. The summer movie theater blockbuster was often a creature feature—Jaws, anyone?—and with summer on the horizon, it's the perfect time to fill your movie queue with the creatures who haunt horror lore.
Before we could compile this list, we spent hours debating the merits of what makes a creature feature—animals, yes, zombies, no. And decided that while vampires and werewolves are technically monsters, we wanted to focus this list on members of the animal kingdom wreaking absolute havoc on humankind.
We scoured the far reaches of the internet, going back all the way to 1933, and found forty-seven of the best creature feature films for every horror fan.
After he’s bitten by a rabid bat, Cujo goes on a murderous spree and eventually traps a mother (Dee Wallace) and her young son (Danny Pintauro) in their car, forcing a deadly confrontation.
The Birds (1963)
During a visit to a sleepy seaside town, a young woman (Tippi Hedren) is blamed for causing a series of merciless and violent bird attacks that escalate over several days.
Pet Sematary (1989, 2019)
Whether you watch the original 1989 version or the newer 2019 release, the story of a family torn apart by the deadly consequences of a series of tragedies is guaranteed to send chills down your spine.
Listen, the idea of eight-legged creatures crawling across your skin is enough to induce terror in most people. Now multiply that fear by thousands of spiders all descending on a small farm and you’ll be scheduling an exterminator before the ending credits.
Black Water (2007)
When a pregnant woman (Diana Glenn), her husband (Andy Rodoreda), and sister (Maeve Dermody) go on a mangrove swamp tour, they’re terrorized by a vicious crocodile.
Related: Don’t Go Near the Water!
A series of unnatural earthquakes brings a seismologist (Finn Carter) to a small Nevada town where she and two handymen (Kevin Bacon and Fred Ward) discover giant, prehistoric worm-like creatures are hunting them from beneath the ground.
The rules are simple: keep your mogwai out of the sun, don’t put it in water, and never, ever feed it after midnight. Billy (Zach Galligan) tries to follow the rules, but after he accidentally spills water on Gizmo, an army of mogwai descend on the town.
With 37 films to choose from, there is a Godzilla movie for everyone. While the theme and tone vary in each, the giant monster—a prehistoric dinosaur-like creature who mutates after being exposed to radioactivity—always provides a smashing good time.
The Reef (2010)
After a group of friends capsize their boat while sailing to Indonesia, they realize their only hope for survival is to try and swim to a nearby island—only to find a great white shark is hunting them.
Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954)
When a group of scientists discover a humanoid creature in the Amazon, they try to capture it—until it starts hunting and killing them one by one.
Terri Flores (Jennifer Lopez) and her film crew didn’t come to the Amazon rainforest to hunt a giant snake. But when they stumble on a ruthless hunter (Jon Voight), they end up in a deadly cat-and-mouse chase with the legendary anaconda.
Lake Placid (1999)
We’re not saying Betty White is the best part of this creature feature, but we’re not not saying it, either. When fish and game discover an enormous crocodile living in a secluded Maine lake, they do everything they can to capture the animal—and survive.
The Grey (2011)
John Ottaway (Liam Neeson) doesn’t particularly like protecting oil drillers from Canadian Grey Wolves, but it’s his job. And when he and his fellow oil workers are stranded in the wilderness after their plane crashes, he has to use all his sharpshooting skills to survive.
Dark Tide (2012)
Struggling to pay her bills, Kate Mathieson (Halle Berry) can’t turn down a payday. So when a thrill-seeking millionaire wants to go on a dangerous shark dive, she says yes. To survive Shark Alley, Kate has to push past all her fears and get back in the water.
Piranha (1978, 1982, 1995, 2010, 2012)
If you were obsessed with these flesh-eating fish when you were a kid, this entire franchise is right up your alley. More than just normal piranhas, these genetically-modified fish cause havoc and mayhem in various aquatic settings.
When an American journalist (Michael Vartan) goes on a river cruise with a small group of tourists, the last thing he expects is to be stranded on a mud island while being hunted by a man-eating crocodile.
Snakes on a Plane (2006)
We all know powerful criminals will do anything to prevent a witness from testifying against them—including releasing dozens of venomous snakes on a plane. Agent Neville Flynn (Samuel L. Jackson) is going to do everything he can to make sure his witness survives.
Willard (1971, 2003)
Willard Stiles (Bruce Davison, Crispin Glover) doesn’t have many friends. Only a group of rats that he raised. But when he’s pushed out of his late father's company and they kill one of his rats, he exacts his revenge—using the rats as weapons.
Years ago, someone flushed an alligator down their toilet. Now, it lives in the sewer and attacks residents to survive. A police officer (Robert Forster) and a reptile expert (Robin Riker) have to track it down before it finds them first.
Open Water (2003)
Stranded at sea after their dive boat accidentally miscounted the passengers, a husband (Daniel Travis) and wife (Blanchard Ryan) struggle to survive among circling sharks and stinging jellyfish.
The Host (2006)
When a mysterious amphibious creature kidnaps his daughter (Go Ah-sung), a shop owner (Byun Hee-bong) does everything he can to rescue her from its lair.
Deep Rising (1998)
A luxury cruise ship is attacked by more than a cut-throat group of mercenaries, in this deep-sea creature feature.
The Blob (1958, 1988)
When a military satellite crashes down to Earth, it’s carrying an acidic, amoeba-like organism that consumes and then liquefies everything in its path.
The Beast (1996)
After successfully killing a squid wreaking havoc in a harbor, the community learns that the squid they have is a baby. And its mother is out for vengeance.
The Breed (2006)
A group of friends fly to a remote cabin for a relaxing weekend getaway. But when they arrive, they are attacked by genetically modified dogs bred to kill at a secret lab on the island. The dogs were abandoned when the owner died—and now they’re hungry.
In an attempt to eradicate a deadly disease being spread by cockroaches, an entomologist (Mira Sorvino) genetically modifies a new breed. The disease is stopped but years later, the cockroaches have evolved into something much more terrifying.
Deep Blue Sea (1999)
A team of researchers study genetically modified mako sharks in an isolated underwater facility hoping to unlock insight into Alzheimer’s disease. But when the sharks start behaving in strange and aggressive ways, the entire facility is threatened.
The Descent (2005)
Six friends go on a caving expedition to help Sarah (Shauna Macdonald) cope with the loss of her husband and daughter. A mistake leads them into an unexplored system of caves that are inhabited by strange creatures with a taste for human flesh.
The Cave (2005)
While searching a lost church, a group of scientists and explorers discover the intricate mosaic floor covers the entrance to an expansive cave system. It’s only after they enter the caves that they discover why.
Deep in the ocean, the crew of an underwater geological facility is being hunted by a mutant sea creature.
The Tingler (1959)
A scientist (Vincent Price) discovers a parasite attached to every human spine that feeds and grows with fear is controlled only by screaming.
A police officer (Albert Finney) is assigned to solve a series of murders only to discover they’re linked to ancient wolf spirits.
The Killer Snakes (1974)
An abused young man (Kwok-Leung Gan) realizes snakes can understand him and uses them to exact revenge against his abusers.
King Kong (1933 – present)
First introduced in 1933, King Kong is one of the most recognized monsters in American pop culture. With twelve movies to choose from, there’s a Kong rampage to satisfy every creature feature fan.
Two gigantic radiation-exposed ant queens escape their colony in the New Mexico desert and wreak havoc across the country as they try to find a place to build new nests.
A group of strangers are trapped inside a Nevada bar as they try to fight off a horde of attacking monsters.
A prehistoric creature is woken up from nearby nuclear bomb testing and begins attacking towns all over the Japanese island of Kyushu.
Night of the Lepus (1972)
When a rabbit escapes an experiment, it breeds in the wild and creates dozens of giant, mutated, killer rabbits who unleash a ravenous rampage on a small town.
Black Sheep (2006)
After two traumatic incidents at his New Zealand childhood sheep farm, a young man (Nathan Meister) has to overcome his fear of sheep when genetic experiments create carnivorous, mutated sheep escape the lab they were created in.
A gigantic wild boar leads a group of wild pigs on a rampage across the Australian outback as they devour anyone they come in contact with.
When a Category 5 hurricane traps alligators in their home, a father (Barry Pepper) and his daughter (Kaya Scodelario) fight to survive.
Jurassic Park (1993)
When a wealthy businessman (Richard Attenborough) invites three scientists (Sam Neill, Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum) and his two grandchildren (Ariana Richards and Joseph Mazzello) to his island theme park filled with de-extinct dinosaurs, a power outage lets the animals loose while the humans struggle to survive.
The Thing (1982)
A group of researchers come across an alien parasite that assimilates and then imitates organisms it comes into contact with.
Furry, carnivorous aliens evade two shape-shifting bounty hunters (Terrence Mann and Don Keith Opper) by crashing into Earth and trying to eat their way through a small town.
The Mist (2007)
The townspeople of Bridgeton, Maine all convene at the local grocery store when a vicious thunderstorm knocks the power out. But as a strange mist envelops the town, they realize there is something hiding in the mist.
While searching for rare, blue diamonds in the middle of the Congo, a group goes missing. CIA agent (Laura Linney) tricks primatologist (Dylan Walsh) into using his trained gorilla, Amy, to help their mission. But in the Congo, humans are the endangered species.
Featured image from "Creature from the Black Lagoon" via Universal Pictures.